The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
New forms of employment contracts and relationships– including zero hour contracts, mini-jobs and work via online intermediaries – have proliferated since the financial crisis. While innovation and creativity must be encouraged, new forms of employment relationships have also increased uncertainty for many workers and this has led to an increasingly unequal labour market.
In an exploratory opinion requested by the Dutch Presidency and Slovak Government (due to take the Presidency from July) adopted today, the EESC argues that the true impact of these new employment relationships on labour standards, social security systems and the living wage must be properly assessed and addressed. Secondly, social welfare models must be adapted in order to cover these non-standard forms of employment. These issues should be given consideration in the development of the EU Pillar of Social Rights.
"Social protection systems, based on the assumption that clear distinctions can be drawn between ‘employed’ and ‘unemployed’ status, are in desperate need of review," said Kathleen Walker Shaw, the EESC’s rapporteur. "In relation to new forms of employment relationships, issues such as the employment status and rights of workers, health and safety enforcement, and liability need to be addressed in order to protect workers, consumers and the public at large."
Protecting citizens in the modern workplace
A better understanding of this changing nature of work and employment relationships should lead to more effective EU employment policy, and help to identify areas to focus on to create sustainable quality jobs. For example, the EESC believes that life-long training, re-skilling and up-skilling – in particular digital skills – should become a priority to ensure that all workers are equipped to c gain jobs in the globalised, high-tech workplace.
Further research is also needed to identify vulnerable groups who might be most at risk under working arrangements that offer no guaranteed income, social security protection or safety. The impact on collective bargaining and the right to freedom of association under new working arrangements must also be assessed and any gaps or grey areas tackled. Investigations into the contractual status of crowd-workers and other new forms of work and employment relationships are needed.
Issues relating to accident liability, damage and service failures in relation to online platforms, crowdsourcing and other new forms of self-employment also need to be reviewed and measures established to clarify and address possible ‘grey zones’ linked to employment status and in relation to taxation and social insurance.
Involving civil society
The EESC would like to see the European Commission, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the ILO (International Labour Organisation) work together with social partners to develop appropriate provisions on decent working conditions and protection for online and other workers. Furthermore, partnerships with trade unions and consumer associations should be encouraged in order to address public concerns and exchange best practice.
Finally, the EESC is aware that the European Commission is currently consulting on the Written Statement Directive and believes that addressing new forms of employment relationships should be included in any new proposal or decision to revisit this legislation.